Friday, April 27, 2012

Fish’s Infallible Hair Restorative

Information Compiled by Rick Simi and Warren Friedrich

The coveted "Blue Fish's"
(Mlasko photo)
The story of this very successful product is full of controversy, and involves several different individuals who manufactured and marketed the Fish’s hair restorative. The ongoing disagreement that the three variants of the Fish bottles were blown at either a western or eastern glassworks continues to be full of rumors, speculation and not many hard facts. Hopefully the information presented in the following manuscript will help answer the question “is the Fish’s Hair Restorative a western or eastern blown bottle”.

To begin , we need to present information from a Supreme Court ruling in October 1866. A man named Benjamin F. Fish of San Francisco in 1855 “invented, manufactured and made an article for the restoring and strengthening of the human hair, to be used upon the head and hair, and gave it the name by which it was and is known, of ‘Fish’s Infallible Hair Restorative’.”

Niles Mills of San Francisco who in the year 1857, has “composed, invented, created, made, established and adopted said labels, trade-marks, devices, wrappers and circulars, and that they belonged to him, and that he had the right to use, or assign, or sell the same, and to make, use, or sell, or assign said ‘Fish’s Infallible Hair Restorative’.”
The first ad for the Fish's product by N. Mills 1858
The third major player in this story involves a man named Charles R. Story; he opened the Pacific Patent Medicine Depot, located at 421 Montgomery Street, San Francisco in the month of May 1861. On July 27th, 1861, N. Mills sold to C. R. Story “the right to manufacture and sell in California and elsewhere, Fish’s Infallible Hair Restorative”. 
July 28, 1861 ad Mills sell Fish's to C.R. Story
The first documented ad for the Fish's
 product in a glass bottle

The first advertisement that mentions the Fish's Infallible Hair Restorative product being put up in a bottle is from C.R. Story in October of 1861. The advertisement on the left states it is put up in pint bottles.
 I believe this was an unembossed paper labeled bottle.

Redington and Co. Advertisement

The fourth major player in the Fish’s saga is John H. Redington, a San Francisco wholesale druggist and importer of drugs, medicines, etc. (Redington and Co. and C. L. Story and Co. were in partnership in this trade in 1851). The first advertisement found for Fish’s Hair Restorative by Redington  and Co. first appeared in the San Jose Mercury newspaper on April 10th, 1862 and sold by local druggists Hewson and  Johnson.
This is still the unembossed paper labeled bottle

On April 6th, 1863 this advertisement appeared in the San Francisco Evening Bulletin newspaper. Benjamin Fish cautions the public that the genuine article is put up in square bottles with the name “B. F. Fish – Fish’s Hair Restorative – San Francisco” blown in the bottles.
This is the first advertisement for the embossed Fish's Hair Restorative placed on May 2, 1863. This is the rectangular bottle that comes in aqua and clear glass and has, in the past, been credited to a western glass works. 
 According to Warren Friedrich in his book
 Early GlassWorks of California " The Pacific glassworks was not producing bottles until June 16th 1863 in California ". From the extensive research that Warren and I have done I am comfortable saying the first embossed B.F. Fish glassed product was blown in the east from an eastern made mold.

The first embossed Fish bottle "FISH'S HAIR RESTORATIVE / B.F.FISH / SAN FRANCISCO

The advertisement to the left is the last and most important advertisement  that was found and describes the new bottle Redington has manufactured for the Fish product. It was placed in the Sacramento Daily Union newspaper on November 24th 1864 and informs the public that from that date on Fish's Infallible Hair Restorative "will be put up in round blue pint bottles"

The mold for the blue Fish's was manufactured by the same mold maker that produced the mold for the aqua rectangular B.F. Fish bottle. Both the font style and the distinctive apostrophe shaped like a seven ( 7) appear on all three of the embossed Fish bottles. The distinctive seven also appears on the eastern blown Risley's and Rush's.
Several other factors weigh in favor of all of the Fish bottles being blown in the east including the fact that San Francisco Glass Works was not in operation during the period the blue Fish's was blown. 
It's remotely possible that the blue bottle may have been blown at Pacific Glass Works, there's just no evidence to absolutely say for sure that it was not. However there is absolute proof that the rectangular Fish's bottle was blown back East prior to PGW's start-up. That bottle and the blue bottle were made by a pattern /mould maker in the East. Several other eastern meds exhibit the same characteristic letter style, including periods, font style, etc.
Even though I'm not a betting man, I would put money down that all of the Fish's Infallible Hair Restorative bottles were blown in a eastern glass house.
Blue Fish's
Aqua fish's



  1. Rick, I commend you and Warren for due diligence in bringing the "true end" to the ongoing saga of the Fish's. None of those bottles have the "look" and "feel" of Western blown glass.

  2. Wonderful arcticle. Well researched and great pictures.
    Dennis E

  3. Great article gents. I was interested in the #7 apostrophe a few years back and put together a list of a few other bottles seen with this style '. The very rare A.Grimm's Rejuvenator For The Hair -San Francisco; Ghiradelli's Branch Oakland blue blob soda; and one of the Turner Bro's. Jamaica Ginger molds has this style of apostrophe. These come to mind off the top, while I look for my list.

  4. Very interesting article with comprehensive information and thoughts. For what it is worth, here is my opinion.
    The rectangular B.F. Fish medicine style version was blown in the east AND west. I used to own a pure 100% western blown deep green aqua medicine style with a large disc type applied top. I traded this example several years ago, but there is absolutely no doubt it was SF blown. The pale aqua double roll collar type, and the flint glass examples were most likely blown in the east as they exhibit eastern glass characteristics.
    As for the blue N. Mills Infallible, I truly believe this bottle was blown in S.F. How can anyone deny the color and glass quality for these cobalt examples? Blown in 1864 they fit right in the timeline as the Salutaris Bitters, Widemann Chappaz, V. Squarza, A. Grimm ,various blob sodas, and other western medicines. To me it does not make sense to hypothisize a bottles manufacture location with a "7" apostrophe, and advertising as the primary facts. To have a custom one of a kind mold made in Pittsburgh, and shipped to the west is quite common as there are several examples of western and eastern blown versions of the same bottle...(Rosenbaums Bitters)...anyway while it really makes little difference, the blue Fish's and Rowlers for that matter, are western blown in my humble opinion regardless of who cut the molds and used a "7" as an apostrophe.

    1. Dale,
      Your opinion has always been respected and valued.
      I believe the rectangular B.F. Fish was blown during same time frame as the blue N. Mills bottle. The battle between Benjamin Fish and Niles Mills / C.R. Story that started as early as 1861 concluded in the Supreme Court decision in favor of Benjamin Fish in October of 1866.
      Benjamin Fish received a temporary injunction against Mills and Story in 1861 for manufacturing and selling an imitation of his hair restorative product. He was unsuccessful in enforcing it. He also brought suit against Redington & Co. in 1862 for the same reasons, but the Northern District Court ruled in favor of the defendant. The case was reviewed in the Appellate Court and in 1866 the court found that the judgment should be reversed and the cause remanded to be tried again, provided the plaintiff [Fish] may desire to insist upon a recovery of damages.
      To shorten a long story Benjamin Fish was selling the rectangular aqua bottle at the same time Redington and Company were selling the blue N. Mills bottle.
      The red white and blue advertisement confirms that the blue bottle embossed Fish’s Infallible Hair Restorative was not made in 1863 as has been alluded to in print by various sources.
      The rectangular Fish’s Hair Restorative bottle in the advertisement confirms that those bottles were made at an Eastern glassworks, as there were no Western glassworks in operation at that time. After the Supreme Court decision there is no mention of the Fish's Hair Restorative being produced for sale. Both Fish's bottles ended production by October of 1866

  5. I am going to have to agree with Millers Extra. Either the mold was shipped out west, or the mold maker in SF was from Pitsburgh, or ANYWHERE for that matter. Beatiful western glass at it's finest. What do easter collector think when they see the cobalt Fishs ???

  6. Great research and article Rick and Warren ! Loved it ! I have owned 3 different types of the rect Fish's. One is a double roll lip pale aqua that I dug here in the Bay Area. It was stained when I found it. It appears to obviously be Eastern. Another was a sq collar lip, fire-aqua, sparkler. Totally different mold, and appears totally Western. The last type I had was the same only in clear flint glass. It was sparkley too, and appeared to be the same mold as the fire-aqua example, only in clear glass.
    When you put all 3 rect bottles together, the last 2 I mentioned, appear to be much different than the first, and sure look Western !
    I also believe Redington had his Turner Bros Jamaica Ginger blown in S.F. Those are as Western as it gets. Most of the Pittsburgh glass I've dug over the yrs is crap glass, and doesnt hold-up to the underground soil elements well at all. Redington had bottles made in S.F. for other Eastern products as well, Newall's Pulmonary, Hostetters Jamaica Ginger. These have Eastern counterparts, like the earliest rect Fish's vs the fire-aqua Western blown Fish.
    No proof, but an educated opinion from seeing these bottles come out of the ground all over Ca for the past 37 yrs. After awhile, subtle differences in moulds, textures, sheen, etc.. become apparent.

  7. Agreed with AP - and no one has pointed out the "N. Mills" embossing on the Fish's being a totally different typeface than the reverse. In my opinion, from seeing this on other bottles, the mould is eastern, no doubt, and was shipped out west. Upon arriving here, the "N.Mills" addition was carved into the mould at PGW; which was in operation at the time the blues could have been blown.

    PGW blew the bottle. Eastern mould with "N.Mills" added here.